Category Archives: Historical

Review: The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen by Victoria Alexander

Title: The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen by Victoria Alexander
The Lady Travelers Guide Series Book One
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Historical, Romance
Length: 544 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Embark on the breathtaking romantic adventures of The Lady Travelers Society in the brand-new series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander 

Really, it’s too much to expect any normal man to behave like a staid accountant in order to inherit the fortune he deserves to support the lifestyle of an earl. So when Derek Saunders’s favorite elderly aunt and her ill-conceived—and possibly fraudulent—Lady Travelers Society loses one of their members, what’s a man to do but step up to the challenge? Now he’s escorting the world’s most maddening woman to the world’s most romantic city to find her missing relative.

While India Prendergast only suspects his organization defrauds gullible travelers, she’s certain a man with as scandalous a reputation as Derek Saunders cannot be trusted any farther than the distance around his very broad shoulders. As she struggles not to be distracted by his wicked smile and the allure of Paris, instead of finding a lost lady traveler, India just may lose her head, her luggage and her heart.

Free bonus story included in this volume! Don’t miss The Proper Way to Stop a Wedding (in Seven Days or Less), a The Lady Travelers Guide novella.

Review:

Brimming with humor and set against the backdrop of Paris, The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen by Victoria Alexander is a highly entertaining historical romance. The Lady Travelers Guide series is off to a strong beginning with this first full-length novel that stars a marvelous cast of characters.

India Prendergrast is incredibly worried when she stops receiving letters from her cousin Lady Heloise Snuggs. Heloise booked her adventurous trip through the Lady Travlers Society and when her inquiries about her cousin go unanswered, India is convinced the society is defrauding its members of their money.  She is also certain the widows who run the organization are a front for the real mastermind of the nefarious scheme.  When she discovers Derek Saunders discussing Heloise with the club’s founders, Lady Guinevere Blodgett and her two best friends, India is convinced her suspicions have been confirmed. However, unbeknownst to India, Derek has figured out what the ladies are up to and he is determined to protect his aunt and her friends from any legal repercussions from their actions. India and Derek join forces to find Heloise and their first stop is Paris, but locating the missing woman amongst the crowd of visitors enjoying the World’s Fair is a daunting task. Will Derek be able to stall India long enough for his uncle’s detectives to locate her missing cousin?

India is a very independent and no nonsense young woman. Unlike most women of the time period, she has no interest in marrying so she works for Sir Martin Luckthorne as his secretarial assistant. She is extremely well-organized with a fairly rigid viewpoint of life.  Convinced she is always right, India tends to rub people the wrong way with her propensity to speak her mind and her unbending attitude.

Derek is in line to inherit his family’s title and he has recently begun to change his rakish ways.  In order to clean up his reputation, he has been working on his uncle’s estate and much to his surprise, he finds he is enjoying his new duties. Very protective of his great aunt, he will do whatever it takes to prevent the truth about her scam from becoming known.

Derek and India rub each other the wrong way right from their very first meeting. Derek thinks she is opinionated and unbending; India views him as an unrepentant scoundrel. As they begin their search for Heloise, they bicker endlessly as they trek from one hotel to another. Derek convinces India to take time to savor the beauty sights of Paris and slowly but surely, she begins to realize that she might have misjudged him.   Over the next several weeks, India becomes much more self-aware once she recognizes how narrow her viewpoint is. Her once adversarial relationship with Derek gradually turns into a friendship as he challenges her to broaden her horizons.  A mutual attraction also simmers under the surface but will Derek and India take their relationship to the next level?

The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen is an absolutely charming historical romance with an eclectic cast of likable characters. The story’s premise is refreshingly unique and the storyline is quite engaging. Delightfully witty banter will keep readers laughing as Derek and India set off on an adventure that leads to a journey of self-discovery for the erstwhile heroine. This first installment in Victoria Alexander’s The Lady Travelers Guide series is an exciting and fun-filled romance that is sure to be a hit with fans of the genre.

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Filed under Harlequin, Historical, HQN Books, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Lady Travelers Guide Series, The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen, Victoria Alexander

Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Title: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 528 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

Review:

Featuring factual information about World War I and World War II, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is an enthralling novel about the real life network of women spies.

In 1947, nineteen year old Charlotte “Charlie” St. Clair has a “Little Problem” that her mother is taking her to Switzerland to fix. On a stopover in England, Charlie takes a detour to try and locate her cousin, Rose Fournier, who disappeared from Nazi occupied France in 1944. Charlie hopes to enlist the help of Evelyn “Eve” Gardiner but the hard drinking recluse is initially unwilling to aid her on her search. Eve’s interest is piqued once she realizes Rose is connected to a French restaurant owner named René, a name that she recognizes from her distant past.  Accompanied by Eve’s driver, Finn Kilgore, the trio quickly embarks on a journey that will hopefully end in redemption but could possibly result in might end in heartbreak.

Until deciding to search for Rose, Charlie has always gone along with her  parents’ plans for her with only a few minor rebellions. Despite her above average intelligence, she is expected to come back from college with a fiancé not a degree. However, after her family suffers a tragic loss, Charlie falls into a depression which leads to very uncharacteristic behavior, an out of wedlock pregnancy and no husband on the horizon. Her decision to find Rose is, in her mind, her last chance for redemption and Charlie refuses to believe that her search for her cousin might not provide her the answer she is hoping for.

Eve is battling plenty of demons of her own and she wants nothing more than to be left alone to drink her problems away. However, once she hears the name René and his connection to a restuarant, nothing will stop her from finding him and she agrees to use her contacts to help Charlie search for Rose.  Eve has a very good reason to find René but she will have to confront the very heartbreaking memories of her past during their quest.

Effortlessly weaving back and forth in time, The Alice Network is a poignant novel that does not downplay the horrors of war or its aftermath. Kate Quinn’s impeccable research brings both time periods and the various settings vibrantly to life. Historically accurate events and people are seamlessly combined with the fictional elements which results in a richly detailed and engrossing story that is impossible to put down. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this incredibly fascinating and emotionally compelling novel.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical, Historical (40s), Kate Quinn, Rated B+, Review, The Alice Network, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: In the Shadow of Alabama by Judy Reene Singer

Title: In the Shadow of Alabama by Judy Reene Singer
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (40s), Literary Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Judy Reene Singer’s newest novel is a masterful story of the American experience. Between the past and present, between love and war, between the burdens of race and hope, a woman returns home to discover her father and a history she had never known

Rachel Fleischer has good reasons not to be at her father’s deathbed. Foaling season is at hand and her horses are becoming restless and difficult. Her critical mother and grasping sister could certainly handle Marty Fleisher’s resistance better without her. But Malachi, her eighty-something horse manager—more father to her than Marty has ever been—convinces Rachel she will regret it if she doesn’t go.

When a stranger at her father’s funeral delivers an odd gift and an apology, Rachel finds herself drawn into the epic story of her father’s World War II experience, and the friendships, trauma, scandal, and betrayals that would scar the rest of his life—and cast a shadow across the entire family. As she struggles to make sense of his time as a Jewish sergeant in charge of a platoon of black soldiers in 1940s Alabama, she learns more than just his history. She begins to see how his hopes and disappointments mirror her own—and might finally give her the means to free herself of the past and choose a life waiting in the wings.

Review:

Alternating back and forth between the present and the early ’40s, In the Shadow of Alabama by Judy Reene Singer is a heartrending novel of complex and difficult relationships, race relations in the South and the lingering effects of wartime.

Rachel Fleischer’s relationships with her family are fraught with tension and the last place she wants to be is her father’s bedside as he refuses medical treatment for his failing heart.  Marty Fleischer has always been a hypercritical, bitter, angry and deeply dissatisfied man whose hateful words continue to haunt her.  At the urging of her farm manager and friend Malachi Charge, Rachel reluctantly goes to see her father one last time before his death. At his funeral, stranger Rowena Jackson presents them with a puzzling package from her father, Willie Jackson. Intrigued and wanting to understand a shocking allegation against her father, Rachel later goes to Boston to meet Willie where he recounts his tangled history with Marty.

Rachel’s dysfunctional childhood left an indelible mark on her and even as an adult, she cannot escape the legacy of her father’s painful words and lack of love. The owner of a horse farm, she lives with her longtime partner, David, and Malachi. Emotionally closed off and protective of her heart, Rachel is unable to fully commit to David and she soon becomes aware there are deep fractures in their relationship. Reluctant to discuss her fears and concerns with him, she ignores the growing distance between them and instead makes the decision to go to Boston to meet Willie.

Rachel knows absolutely nothing of Marty’s experiences in World War II and she is quite shocked to learn that he was in charge of a colored squadron in Alabama.  Neither man lived in the South prior to their assignment at Gunter Field so they are ill prepared for the reality of segregation and the animosity directed towards Jews.   Although both men are college educated, they are assigned to a squadron that cleans aircraft engines.  Marty is a benevolent leader who looks out for the men serving under him although his efforts are not at all appreciated by the white soldiers on the base. Despite Willie’s best efforts to remain under the radar, he and Marty form a friendship of sorts that comes to an abrupt end following Marty’s well intentioned but misguided efforts to treat his men as equals. The two men eventually go back to their regular lives but neither of them are able to escape the tragedies of their shared history.

Based on the real life experiences of Judy Reene Singer and her father, In the Shadow of Alabama is a deeply affecting and rather poignant novel of reconciliation and healing.  After learning of the events that shaped her father into the haunted man who raised her, Rachel has a better understanding of herself, her mother and her sister. With newfound awareness of the negative effects of her behavior, Rachel tries to repair her tattered relationships, but is it too late to salvage the one that means the most to her?

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Filed under Contemporary, Historical, Historical (40s), In the Shadow of Alabama, Judy Reene Singer, Kensington, Literary Fiction, Rated B+, Review

Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

Title: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical (30s), Romance, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Amanda Quick, the bestselling author of ’Til Death Do Us Part, transports readers to 1930s California, where glamour and seduction spawn a multitude of sins…

When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

Review:

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick is a delightfully clever mystery that is set during the glamorous Golden Age of Hollywood.

After her previous job abruptly comes to a dangerous and tragic end, Irene Glasson reinvents herself upon her arrival in Los Angeles. Now an up and coming reporter at gossip rag Whispers, she is hoping her upcoming meeting with Gloria Maitland provides her with the information for a titillating article on rising star Nick Tremayne. Unfortunately, Irene finds Gloria’s lifeless body in the swimming pool at the upscale Burning Cove Hotel. Believing Gloria’s death is no accident, Irene remains in town and pairs up with the hotel’s owner (and former magician) Oliver Ward to try and uncover the truth about Gloria’s death.

Irene is a spunky young woman who does not shy away from danger. She is resourceful, confident and determined to find the truth about Gloria’s death. She is reluctant to completely trust Oliver, but once she realizes how far Nick’s studio will go to protect their star, she has no choice but to work with him.  Stubbornly convinced that Nick is connected to Gloria’s death and her co-worker Peggy Hackett’s eerily similar death,  Irene ignores the danger surrounding her and doggedly pursues every lead she finds.

Despite his previous fame, Oliver now keeps a low profile and he is a little mysterious since he refuses to discuss the accident that ended his career.  Since he is intensely protective of his guests, he is not at all pleased to discover that Irene somehow managed to  find her way onto to the hotel grounds. It goes without saying he has a vested interest in learning the truth about what happened to Gloria since the negative publicity could harm his hotel’s reputation. Oliver is stunned by the spark of interest he feels for Irene and the more time he spends in her company, the more vibrant and alive he feels. While he can be a little grumpy and close-mouthed, he is nothing but supportive of Irene throughout their investigation.

Irene’s investigation takes many surprising twists and turns as Nick tries to downplay any involvement with her death. Although Irene is a little frightened by some of the strong arm tactics employed by the studio’s hired goons, she refuses to give up digging for the truth. Will Irene and Oliver find the evidence they need to support her theory about that Nick is Gloria’s killer?

Although there is plenty of danger surrounding them, Oliver and Irene find the time to explore their unexpected attraction for each other. While their romance is a delightful addition to unfolding story, the investigation into the suspicious deaths remains the main focus of the storyline.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a wonderful novel with a fantastic cast of characters and intriguing mysteries to solve.  Amanda Quick deftly brings both  the time period and setting vibrantly to life. Irene is a gutsy heroine who never lets anyone or anything deter her from finding the truth about the what happened to Gloria and Peggy.  The killer’s identity and motive for the murders are carefully concealed until the novel’s dramatic conclusion.  I thoroughly enjoyed this spellbinding novel and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries.

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Filed under Amanda Quick, Berkley, Historical, Historical (30s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Suspense, The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Review: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

Title: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical (70s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

CONVERSATION GUIDE INCLUDED

Review:

Written from four distinct perspectives and weaving back and forth in time, All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg is an engaging novel about mental illness and to a lesser extent, social injustice between the wealthy and poor.

In 1972, Carole Gifford La Porte is a mother of three who works with her husband Walt in the family’s car repair business. When she begins forgetting things and hearing voices, she is quick to assume her recent insomnia is responsible for her mind playing tricks on her. However, she cannot ignore her family’s history of mental illness since her own mother, Solange, has been a permanent resident of the Underhill State Hospital ever since her father had her committed thirty-four years earlier. As Carole’s condition worsens, she continues hiding her symptoms from her family and she begins growing paranoid and fearful of those around her.

Carole and Walt’s eleven year old daughter Alison is becoming increasingly frustrated by her mother’s bizarre behavior. She is also quite upset by her mom’s refusal to help with the normal preparations for the upcoming school year. When her attempts to bring her mom’s strange actions to her father’s attention do not yield results, Alison tries casting spells and other supernatural phenomena to try to help her mother.

Thirty four year old Janine is nothing like her older sister Carole. Her birth is the catalyst for their father to commit their mother to the state hospital and Carole is the only maternal figure in her life. Janine is incredibly self-absorbed and she will go to any lengths to try to get her way.& Her actions throughout the story are extremely self centered and her final efforts to snag a husband go horribly wrong.

The middle part of the story centers on Solange and her marriage. Solange meets and marries her wealthy husband back in the 1920s and at first the differences in their family’s socioeconomic status makes no difference in their lives. Solange is initially content to view the world through her husband’s eyes but as she witnesses her poverty stricken family struggle to survive during the Depression, she begins forming her own opinions on the division between the classes. Her once happy marriage begins to flounder and in a moment of anger, Solange makes an ill-fated choice that will reverberate for generations.

The premise of All the Best People is quite unique and the historical elements are fascinating. However, Carole’s worsening mental health symptoms become repetitive and somewhat annoying. While it is initially plausible that she successfully conceals her symptoms from her immediate family, there comes point when it is impossible to believe that Walt and their sons do not become more concerned about her increasingly strange behavior.

All the Best People is a well-researched novel that touches on some very relevant social issues. The portions of the storyline which focus on the Solange’s history and Carole’s attempts to hide her symptoms from her family are gripping but Janine’s ridiculous attempts to snare a husband are, for the most part, an unnecessary distraction. Sonja Yoerg does an outstanding job educating readers on classism and the horrifying mental health practices that are thankfully no longer used. Overall, it is an interesting read that is quite informative.

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Filed under All the Best People, Berkley, Historical, Historical (70s), Rated C+, Review, Sonja Yoerg

Review: Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth

Title: Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (40s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Mesmerizing and romantic, Stars Over Clear Lake transports readers to the Surf Ballroom, where musical acts became legends in the 1940s and which holds the key to one woman’s deepest secret.

Lorraine Kindred’s most cherished memories are of the Surf Ballroom, the place where youth lost themselves to the brassy sounds and magnetic energy of the big band swing, where boys spent their last nights before shipping off to war—and where Lorraine herself was swept away by a star-crossed romance.

Returning to the ballroom for the first time in decades, Lorraine enters a dazzling world she thought long vanished. But as the sparkling past comes to life, so does the fateful encounter that forced her to choose between her heart and her duty all those years ago—and Lorraine must face the secret she’s buried ever since. Along the way, she’ll rediscover herself, her passion, and her capacity for resilience.

Set during the 1940s and the present and inspired by a real-life ballroom, Loretta Ellsworth’s Stars Over Clear Lake is a moving story of forbidden love, lost love, everlasting love—and self love.

Review:

Weaving back in forth between the 1940s and 2007, Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth is a emotionally compelling novel that is quite captivating.

A year after losing her husband, Lorraine Kindred’s memories of life during the 1940s are in the forefront of her mind following a night at the Surf Ballroom. Lorraine cannot stop thinking about how dramatically life with her parents on their Iowa farm changed after her brother Pete enlisted during World War II.  After Pete leaves for the battlefield, her father hires German POWs from a nearby POW camp to help work their farm. As Lorraine gets to the know the men working with her father, her viewpoint of “the enemy” gradually shifts and her friendship with Jens eventually turns to love.  However with anti-German sentiment running high and her mother’s insistence she marry Scotty Bishop, Lorraine is torn between duty and the man who holds her heart. Will Lorraine risk her relationship with her family to be with Jens or will she marry a man she admires but does not love?

In the present, Lorraine is still adjusting to life without her husband.  Her relationship with her daughter Daisy has always been strained and they do not see eye to eye on many things.  Lorraine adores her son-in-law Harry but she is a little frustrated after he announces he is looking into the fire that destroyed the original Surf Ballroom back in 1947. He is convinced she might have valuable insight into the fire but Lorraine resists his efforts to discuss the events of that night.

In the past, Lorraine and her family try to adjust to life without Pete.  Lorraine is a gifted singer but her mother does not support her daughter’s dreams to professionally perform. She is also very much against her husband bringing German POWs to their farm and she makes no effort to hide her animosity towards them. Lorraine is initially hesitant when she first meets the prisoners but spending time with them helps her understand that not every German is a Nazi. Her relationship with Jens evolves over time into friendship then love but when the war finally ends, the POW camps finally close and the prisoners are deported to Europe. Her life then follows a somewhat predictable path but Lorraine still struggles between doing what is expected of her and following her dreams.

With surprising plot twists and an engaging storyline, Stars Over Clear Lake is an enchanting novel that is quite poignant. Loretta Ellsworth’s impeccable research brings the setting and time period vibrantly to life.  The historical elements are quite fascinating and beautifully incorporated into the storyline.  The characters are wonderfully developed and immensely appealing. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this delightfully heartwarming novel.

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Filed under Contemporary, Historical, Historical (40s), Loretta Ellsworth, Rated B+, Review, Stars Over Clear Lake, Thomas Dunne Books, Women's Fiction